In chronic liver diseases caused by oxidative stress (alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases, drug- and chemical-induced hepatic toxicity), the antioxidant medicines such as silymarin can have beneficial effect. Liver cirrhosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver and steatohepatitis are risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Insulin resistance and oxidative stress are the major pathogenetic mechanisms leading the hepatic cell injury in these patients. The silymarin exerts membrane-stabilizing and antioxidant activity, it promotes hepatocyte regeneration; furthermore it reduces the inflammatory reaction, and inhibits the fibrogenesis in the liver. These results have been established by experimental and clinical trials. According to open studies the long-term administration of silymarin significantly increased survival time of patients with alcohol induced liver cirrhosis. Based on the results of studies using methods of molecular biology, silymarin can significantly reduce tumor cell proliferation, angiogenesis as well as insulin resistance. Furthermore, it exerts an anti-atherosclerotic effect, and suppresses tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced protein production and mRNA expression due to adhesion molecules. The chemopreventive effect of silymarin on HCC has been established in several studies using in vitro and in vivo methods; it can exert a beneficial effect on the balance of cell survival and apoptosis by interfering cytokines. In addition to this, anti-inflammatory activity and inhibitory effect of silymarin on the development of metastases have also been detected. In some neoplastic diseases silymarin can be administered as adjuvant therapy as well.
Keywords: Cancer prevention, chronic liver diseases, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, hepatocellular carcinoma, silymarin, steatohepatitis, oxidative stress, Liver cirrhosis, membrane-stabilizing, insulin resistance, metastases, adjuvant therapy, hepatobiliary diseases